You’ll likely feel a sense of deja vu while watching Bare, the debut feature film from director Natalia Leite. There are shades of movies from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to Blue Is The Warmest Color to Coyote Ugly, but Bare spans genres: it’s part coming-of-age story, part family drama, part LGBT romance. Though you’ll recognize familiar tropes, Leite’s direction and Dianna Agron’s performance mean that Bare is interesting in a way that feels new.
Agron – best known for playing cheerleader Quinn Fabray on Glee – stars as Sarah, a bored young woman stuck living in a small Nevada town until a mysterious, charismatic drug dealer named Pepper (Paz De La Huerta) comes into her life. Under Pepper’s influence, Sarah begins to work as a stripper, takes cocaine and peyote, and – yes – falls in love. However, Leite puts a new spin on the story by having Sarah initiate sex with Pepper and need absolutely no convincing to strip or take drugs. She’s a woman with agency, who seems as if she’s been waiting her whole life for the chance to take a risk.
Most of the media attention paid to Bare has focused on Agron’s nude scenes, but her performance is so much more noteworthy than that – and in fact, the nude scenes are beautifully shot, more female gaze than male gaze. Agron completely carries the film, making us feel for a character that could have felt like a stand-in cutout, a la Twilight’s Bella Swan. Meanwhile, De La Huerta plays Pepper for the destructive, manipulative, unlikable addict she is – which means that it’s up to Agron to make us believe that Pepper’s charisma exists.
Bare’s cinematography also deserves praise. Leite manages to convey the claustrophobia of a small town, the freedom of nature, the excitement of the big city, and the strangeness of being under the influence with gorgeous, wide-sweeping, colorful shots and plenty of background noise. She puts us in Sarah’s world with her.
In an interview with BUST last week, Agron said she took the role because she wanted to “make choices that are vastly different from the choices I have made before.” Bare will make you want to see what choices she – and Natalia Leite – make next.
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